Leadership Virtuosity: Lee Thayer’s Call for Leaders to be Mindful

Leave the first response July 27, 2010 / Posted in Mindful Leadership
Chair Gathering-Chicago May 2010

Chair Gathering-Chicago May 2010

Lee Thayer’s Leadership Virtuosity is his latest book that is a must read for all who want to see what is the cost of becoming a virtuoso leader.

It would be a good idea to remember to re-read Buddha’s Kalama Sutra as a reminder of leadership and followership and now jumping to conclusions. The example being the accusations of Andrew Breitbard about Shirley Sherrod and the truth coming out. More than ever we need to be mindful about what is being said through the media and through the internet.

However, after thorough observation, investigation, analysis and reflection, when you find that anything agrees with reason and your experience, and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, and of the world at large; accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it; and live up to it.

These words, the Buddha went on to say, must be applied to his own teachings.

Some of Lee’s thoughts for your reflection:


The Performing Leader

The primary advantage of de-personalizing performance–of making the person’s performance and not his psyche and/or personality the issue–is that the person’s performance is objectively measurable and improvable. The persons internal mind-set and other habits are not.

A second advantage of separating the “person” from his or her performance is that it permits the leader to have adult relationships with his performers without becoming their mother or their therapist or their day-cafe supervisor.

The Intolerant Leader

You get what you tolerate

It certainly has the logic going for it:

If you tolerate poor performance, you will probably get it
If you tolerate certain mistakes, you will in all probability have to put up with them
If you tolerate broken promises, you will get them…
If you tolerate deceit and conniving, you will get them
If you tolerate incompetence, incompetent people will know where to apply.

The Caring Leader

Those who are not competent in their roles in any collective jeopardize the lives of all the rest of us

Those who do not understand that the organization cannot care for their needs unless they first care for the needs of the organization put the lives of all the rest of us in jeopardy.

Any member of any organization, at any level, who expresses distaste for her role is doing so because she is incompetent.

The Accomplishment-Minded Leader

Having a purpose in life is not just New Age claptrap. It is inescapably pragmatic. In this way:

Those who don’t know or don’t care where they are going have nothing by which to niavigate except other people who don’t know or don’t care where they are going. They don’t know what is relevant to their journey because they are not committed to any particular destination. they carry no compass, having no need. They could, like the ancient Polynesians, read the currents. But on one seems to know how to do this. It is not on the test they had in school

…The leadership virtuoso takes a (habitual) posture something like this:

Who ought to own the problem? (in most cases, this should be the person or people who have the problem.)
Who ought to own the problem of fixing it? (Same as above.)
Who ought to get credit for eliminating the problem–the one who becomes aware of it, the one who figures out what to do about it, or the one who implements the fix? (that’s easy. They need to be the same person or group of people)

The leader who needs to get credit for any one of those three will never be much more than a mediocre manager

There is a difference between accomplishment as a way of life and accomplishment for the sole purpose of moving up in the organization. The leadership virtuoso takes great care not to reward the latter. In a great organization, not to be accomplishment-minded is to be wrong-minded.

…To accomplish anything at all worthy of being human will always be determined by how accomplishment-minded we are–individually and collectively

The “Good” Leader

What the good leader does is make it necessary for people to see their duty, and then to make it necessary for them to carry out their duty competently.

It is not the good leader’s role to make his or her people “happy.” It is her role to make learners out of them, to make it necessary for them to increase their competencies in their own roles.

…Until the people in a organization put the organization first, and themselves second, or third, their leaders are not good for them, for the organization, or for the future of this civilization. What’s incompatible is that if people have no duty to the larger whole (e.g. the organization, the society), there can be no virtue. The good leader teaches people what their duties are–to themselves, to others, to the larger whole. Until that happens, no good is likely to come of it. A leader who cannot make this happen is a bad leader. Under a bad leader, everyone loses.

…People who are not capable of leadeing themselves will choose leaders who are ot good for them.

It is our duty to be the kind of people who deserve “good” leaders. It is the good leader’s duty to make us do what we ought to do, to become the kind of people we ought to become. We clearly get the leaders we deserve.

The ingredient most often missing from all our talk about leadership is…power. The leader’s influence is limited by the limitations of her power. What brought Carly down at HP was not her incompetence. It was a shortfall of the power needed to fend off the opposing powers.

If a leader does not have the prerogative to choose his own personnel, he will likely fail. If the leader does not have or exercise fire-power, he will lose. If the leader cannot impose his will on his followers, he will lose. It is the leader’s prerogative, necessarily, to risk being wrong. If it becomes groupthink, everyone loses.

Leadership virtuosity requires leading people from where they are to where they ought to be, from who they are to who they ought to be. To fail at this is to fail in the leadership role and to betray those people.

If it is done for their long-term benefit, and the benefit of the larger whole (all of the organization’s other stakeholders), you must have the power necessary to make it happen. If you turn that moral obligation over to others, you have failed your leadership role. You have done harm.

Click here: Leadership Virtuosity if you want to be challenged to become who you ought to be.

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